The Delhi High Court has asked the Centre to “keep ready” records related to writers who returned their Sahitya Akademi awards in protest against the Akademi’s “silence” over alleged instances of intolerance and the murder of author M M Kalburgi.
The bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath asked the central government standing counsel, appearing on behalf of the Sahitya Akademi, to apprise it about the number of persons who had returned the prestigious award. The HC was hearing a PIL seeking strict guidelines and “punitive action” against persons who it claimed had “insulted” the nation by returning their awards.
The bench raised the issue of implementation of the policy sought by the petitioners. “Even if we make guidelines and someone returns the awards, what can be done?” asked the bench.
The court has asked for details of the stand taken by the various authors while returning their awards, and the royalties earned by each author. While mentioning the name of eight persons, including writer Nayantara Sahgal, who have returned their awards recently, the petition has sought a direction to the ministry and Sahitya Akademi to frame guidelines with respect to the award instituted by the respondents with retrospective effect. During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the petitioners also informed the court that the authors had earned royalties on the books published and sold through the Akademi, and should be made to pay back the money, if they return the awards.
The standing counsel for the Centre told the court that as the Akademi was an “autonomous independent body” it was up to the academy to take a decision which would be supported by the Center. He said that the Akademi had condemned the murder of Prof Kalburgi.